In pieces A memoir

Sally Field

Book - 2018

One of the most celebrated, beloved, and enduring actors of our time, Sally Field has an infectious charm that has captivated the nation for more than five decades, beginning with her first TV role at the age of seventeen. From Gidget's sweet-faced "girl next door" to the dazzling complexity of Sybil to the Academy Award-worthy ferocity and depth of Norma Rae and Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has stunned audiences time and time again with her artistic range and emotional acuity. Yet there is one character who always remained hidden: the shy and anxious little girl within. With raw honesty and the fresh, pitch-perfect prose of a natural-born writer, and with all the humility and authenticity her fans have come to expect, Field readers behind-the-scenes for not only the highs and lows of her star-studded early career in Hollywood, but deep into the truth of her lifelong relationships--including her complicated love for her own mother. Powerful and unforgettable, In Pieces is an inspiring and important account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century.

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New York : Grand Central Publishing 2018.
Main Author
Sally Field (author)
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 404 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

ASIDE FROM WHAT else she has meant to American culture over the past half century, Sally Field is notable for being perhaps the most misquoted actor of her generation. When she won her second best-actress Oscar - for her performance as a young widow during the Great Depression in 1984's "Places in the Heart" - Field delivered a gushing, unguarded acceptance speech that ended with a line that has been mocked and parodied ever since, incorrectly remembered as "You like me! You really like me!" (What she actually said was: "I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me! ") The sentiment, if not her exact words, has endured because it affirms what we believe to be essentially true about Hollywood stars: that they are black holes of need, starving for as much love and attention as they can suck out of the universe. But if you come to her memoir, "In Pieces," expecting to meet a plucky Sally Field desperate to be liked, you will not find her. Written by the actor over seven years, without the aid of a ghostwriter (a crutch often used by celebrity authors), this somber, intimate and at times wrenching self-portrait feels like an act of personal investigation - the private act of a woman, now 71, seeking to understand how she became herself, and striving to cement together the shards of her psyche that have been chipped and shattered over the course of her life. Field was born in Pasadena, Calif., in 1946, the second child of Richard Field, a pharmaceutical salesman, and the actress Margaret Field (nee Morlan), a stunning beauty who appeared in dozens of mostly forgettable films. When Field was 3 years old, her parents separated, and she and her older brother moved with their mother into the home of their maternal grandmother in the hills above Pasadena. It was here that Field became enveloped in a matriarchy, cared for by her mother, her grandmother, her great-aunt and her great-grandmother. "It was a kind of no-man's land," she writes. "A world filled with women who would straighten up if a man walked in, who would set aside the triviality of their own work and quickly move everything out of the way. But the men, whoever they were, never stayed long, and when the door slammed behind them, the house seemed to breathe a sigh of relief." In many ways, the same can be said for "In Pieces" itself, which serves as a kind of tribute to those women - her mother in particular - and others who would guide and protect Field throughout her turbulent childhood and an adulthood fraught by personal and professional upheaval. With a few exceptions, the men in Field's book are vague, impermanent figures, either benign or sinister, who affect the course of her life but are never central to it. But, like the women who raised her, Field would frequently be expected to sublimate her own needs and desires to those of men, beginning with her stepfather. Less than a year after Field's parents separated, her mother began seeing a strapping actor and stuntman named Jock Mahoney. Mahoney and Margaret would shortly marry and have a daughter, Princess. Mahoney was always affectionate with Field, and she adored him, but he soon began summoning her to the bedroom, where she was told to walk on his back as he lay naked in bed. Over time, he began touching her, then simulating intercourse, slowly escalating a pattern of sexual abuse that she would endure into her adolescence. Even now, decades later, her feelings about him are conflicted. Like many survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a family member, she seems compelled to defend her abuser - or to minimize his behavior. "He loved me enough not to invade me," she writes. "He never invaded me. In all the many times. Not really. It would have been one thing if he had held me down and raped me, hurt me. Made me bleed. But he didn't. Was that love? Was that because he loved me?" Only a quarter of the book is devoted to this time in her life, but it haunts almost every page that follows. The events of Field's childhood seemed to fragment her personality into distinct and sometimes conflicting identities - the "pieces" of the book's title - and shaped how she navigated both her romantic relationships and her career, as she rose from the teenage star of the perky 1965 sitcom "Gidget" and the absurd "Flying Nun" series, to her Emmy-winning role as a woman with multiple personality disorder in the mini-series "Sybil," through the romantic sidekick role in the hit "Smokey and the Bandit," before fully stepping into her power with her Oscar-winning performance as an indomitable textile-mill worker in 1979's "Norma Rae." Repeatedly, Field faced sexual harassment, blatant sexism and casual cruelty at the hands of both the men she worked with and those she loved. The Monkees teased her with humiliating sexual innuendo on the set of "The Flying Nun." The film director Bob Rafelson, she writes, invited her to his bedroom for her last audition and asked her to remove her top before he decided whether to cast her. Burt Reynolds, her "Bandit" co-star and then boyfriend, belittled and minimized her, expecting her to prioritize his career over her own. The central paradox of Field's identity is that she yielded to all of these things, with little to no protest - "I eliminated most of me," she writes of her relationship with Reynolds, "becoming a familiar, shadowy version of myself, locked behind my eyes, unable to speak" - but then refused to allow them to stop her. When Field landed the role of Norma Rae, Reynolds was outraged, accusing her of "wanting to play a whore." That time she pushed back, defending the character, and then ultimately herself. When he told her that her ambition was getting the better of her, she replied, "My ambition is the better of me and you can't touch it." It's that fighter in Field that we have so often rooted for onscreen, in films as varied as "Places in the Heart" and "Steel Magnolias," "Absence of Malice" and "Mrs. Doubtfire," and it's easy to imagine an alternate, crowd-pleaser version of this memoir loaded with moments where she stood her ground, fired off some snappy dialogue and stuck it to the man. In fact, those moments are in short supply. Field seems to be aiming higher than that. Throughout "In Pieces," she assesses herself with a clear and critical eye, often revealing unappealing parts of herself - including her temper, her insecurity, her absences from her sons' lives while she pursued her work, her role in her two failed marriages and her flares of impatience with her mother, who dedicated the last years of her life to helping take care of Field's sons - with minimal rationalization, sentiment or self-pity. It may not make you like her, but by the end, what we think about her also seems quite beside the point. SEAN SMITH is the former executive editor of Entertainment Weekly. This somber, intimate and at times wrenching self-portrait feels like an act of personal investigation.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 23, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Sally Field loved Gidget's other side of the glass world because her early 1960s TV character had a kind and reliable father, the stark opposite of Field's sexually predatory stepfather. In her first book, a memoir as soulful, wryly witty, and lyrical as it is candid and courageous, Field recounts the prolonged abuse she survived by creating a safe place where I could toss all the feelings I didn't understand. Field's stoicism was rooted in her love for her mother (who was always glowing like honey in a glass jar), and it was her mother's death that inspired this eye-opening and deeply affecting chronicle. As Field vividly shares behind-the-scene tales about her Academy Award-winning role in Norma Rae (If I could play her, I could be me), her Emmy-winning performance in Sybil (which opened a national dialogue about child abuse and mental illness), and her indelible performance as Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, among many other performances, she reveals the damaging relationships and unending demands she endured, her battle to free herself from the typecasting her early sitcom success bestowed, and her revelations at the Actors Studio, where All the pieces, the voice, the parts of me came together. Arresting in its dark disclosures, vitality, humor, and grace, Field's deeply felt and beautifully written memoir illuminates the experiences and emotions on which she draws as an exceptionally charismatic, empathic, and powerful artist. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Sally Field is beloved, which is pull enough, but the struggles she reveals, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, are galvanizing and will be avidly discussed on every form of media.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Actress Field's candid memoir exposes her constant loneliness and lifelong struggle to understand herself and her relationships with others. Field writes about her early family life growing up around Los Angeles, which included being sexually abused by her stepfather beginning at age 12, and maintaining an uneasy relationship with her alcoholic mother. She tells of her early acting career and her popular sitcom roles in Gidget and The Flying Nun when she was 17 and 20 respectively, and reveals that she hated the script for The Flying Nun and initially refused the part. Her stepfather bullied her into taking the role, which she disliked throughout its three-year run. At 22 in 1968, Field married her high school boyfriend. The marriage ended six years later, and it was then that Field met Burt Reynolds while filming Smokey and the Bandit. The three-year romantic relationship with Reynolds was unhealthy from the beginning: "Gently, Burt began to housebreak me, teaching me what was allowed and what was not." Field's stories about the earlier years of her career entertain, but the descriptions of her more recent projects feels rushed, as she barely mentions her roles in Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Forrest Gump. Ultimately, Fields paints a moving, complex self-portrait. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

Talented and versatile Academy- and Emmy Award-winning actor Field's credits range from Gidget and Sybil to Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, among many others. Now she reveals the personal side of her story, along with her rise to fame. Reverberating throughout these pages is the impact of sexual abuse by her stepfather and her struggles to work through her relationship with her beloved mother. Field addresses these issues frankly, as she does the complex facets of her marriages and other associations (including her much-publicized relationship with actor Burt Reynolds), as well as various episodes in her behind-the-scenes professional life. Her discussion of building a vibrantly enduring acting career in the midst of turbulence is especially fascinating. There are vivid anecdotes from on and off the set, well-drawn accounts of priceless tutelage by famed Lee Strasberg, and powerful descriptions of how Field crafted major dramatic roles from deep within her emotional reservoir. It is all here and in Field's inimitable words, enhanced by thoughtfully chosen photographs. VERDICT Especially relevant in light of the growing awareness of rape and sexual assault, this engrossing, well-written work will appeal to fans and those previously unfamiliar with Field's work.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.